Saturday, August 27, 2011

A major change in scenery -- Our adventure in Afghanistan!

DGE Kim Gramling, Kathy, and I met at GSP Airport on the evening of August 19th to begin a new adventure in my DG travels! Some of you are probably wondering why it has taken so long to begin posting on the blog, but you will soon understand! We boarded our United Express flight to the Washington DC Dulles Airport on time, the plane departed the gate on time, and we then sat on the GSP tarmac for nearly two hours due supposedly to bad weather in Washington, DC. (The Dulles Airport tarmac was dry and weather beautiful when we finally arrived!) I explained to the flight attendant that we would miss our flight to Dubai that evening with the delay, but this did not seem to phase anyone at United. I tracked both flights on my iPhone as we waited, discovered that the Dubai flight was delayed due to mechanical problems, and was still on the ground when we landed in Washington. Kathy, Kim, and I ran through the airport to the gate to try to board the flight, but they closed the door 5 minutes before we arrived. The gate agent was also not phased by our situation and sent us to customer service where we waited over an hour to speak with someone. We were booked on a flight leaving the next day at 10:18 PM, and the airline elected to send us on a $58 cab ride to downtown Washington to their preferred hotel. Unfortunately, they did not provide a proper voucher for the hotel and offered one meal for the 24 hour period before our flight to Dubai departed. We finally settled into the hotel room about 2:30 AM, slept a few hours, and decided to tour DC the next day. Needless to say, I was a bit cranky and probably didn't impress DGE Kim! The following day, we enjoyed the new 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, the Native American Smithsonian Museum, and of course the Air and Space Museum. We took a few photos on the Mall of the Capital and Lincoln Memorial. The Hilton Hotel in Crystal City was very nice to us and provided transportation to Reagan Airport where we caught a Super Shuttle to Dulles and proceeded to board our flight to Dubai. They even had our luggage on the flight! 

The 14 hour flight to Dubai was uneventful, and we had an opportunity to enjoy a good meal, catch up on e-mail, and even enjoy some great Baskin Robbins ice cream in the beautiful Dubai terminal before another nightmare began. As a result of missing the flight to Dubai, we also no showed our flight on Safi Airways to Kabul. This resulted in us waiting until 2 AM to determine if they had any seats on this nearly fully booked flight. We then learned that we had to pay a $40 no show fee, a $40 change in reservation fee, and a $50 service fee per person to get new tickets. We essentially paid for a new ticket to Kabul thanks to United Airlines. Please accept my apologies for this long story, but it makes me feel better if I can at least warn one person about the consequences of flying with United Airlines.
On August 22nd we landed in Kabul on time at 6:40 AM (Kabul time, + 8.5 hours from EDT) and were met by our guest house hosts. Knowing that the course I was coming to teach began at 7 AM, I quickly moved into our room, cleaned up a bit, and headed to Afshar Hospital located about 30 minutes away from the guest house. They had started about 30 minutes late, but were pleased to have me to help with the advanced obstetrics course. I did a lecture, helped teach at two skill stations, and had a great time seeing some of my old residents now teaching in the residency program. Fatigue just about overcame me since I really had not slept well since our first night in Washington DC. Kathy and I slept well that afternoon and evening! 
The next three days (August 23-25) were an absolute joy as we continued to teach the OB course and interact with our 24 students (family medicine and OB physicians as well as several midwives). I was impressed by their excitement about learning despite the fact that this is Ramazan when they fast (no food or fluids) during the day. Kathy and Kim were able to participate in a mobile medical clinic to Dashti Bachi, an very impoverished area in Kabul. They administered some polio vaccine and were able to interact with the midwives and huge crowd of mothers with their babies. I was pleased that DGE Kim and Kathy were able to see typical Afghans in an area similar to many rural areas of the country. Kim and Kathy were also a huge help on the last day of the course when we administered the practical and written tests. Kim proctored the written exam while Kathy scored the practical exam. I suspect both of them learned some obstetrics in the process! I ended the day with instructing the residents on how to use some new iPod Touches brought for them to use. They were like children at Christmas with these new toys used by many physicians in the US and worldwide now! We enjoyed some great dinners in a heavily guarded and fortified restaurant in downtown Kabul on two nights with our Afghan and US hosts.
On Friday, August 26th, Ramesh Ferris arrived from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. My friend, Dost Mohammad, Assistant Governor for the three Afghanistan Rotary Clubs in Kabul, Herat, and Jalalabad, and I went to the Kabul Airport to pick up Ramesh. His flight was delayed about two hours, but we met several American contractors waiting for people on the same flight who may be able to help the US physicians working with the residency program. Kathy and Kim were able to attend a local fellowship while we were at the airport. Kathy met many old friends, and Kim saw a new aspect of life in Afghanistan. I had hoped that we could visit some old friends at Camp Eggers or ISAF, but we learned that a security alert had been declared and these were unsafe areas to visit. 
On Saturday, August 27th, we began our day by obtaining foreign visitor registration cards without any difficulty and then met our Rotarian host at the Ministry of Public Health in downtown Kabul. He had arranged a visit with the Director of the Afghan PolioPlus program, a highly educated (M.D. and Ph.D.) physician who impressed us with the country's desire to eradicate polio. I learned that Afghanistan had 17 new cases of polio in 2010 and had recorded only 13 cases in 2011 in 3 southern provinces where the security is less than optimal for vaccination teams. We learned that they had plenty of vaccine and an effective cold chain. The director asked us to consider helping polio victims with rehabilitation. Ramesh Ferris did a terrific job explaining the importance of eradicating polio to avoid 10 million children being afflicted with this terrible disease over the next 10 years if we don't stop polio. We gave out several "End Polio Now" pins that were prized by the recipients.

The trip back to the guest house was exciting as we dealt with extreme heat (100+ degrees) and very heavy traffic. We did have the opportunity to visit a park on top of a mountain that allowed a beautiful view of Kabul and nice photos during some old Russian tank hulls! 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ending on a high note in Spartanburg with the Rotary Club of Spartan West

Kathy and I met an impressive group of Rotarians at the Rotary Club of Spartan West! President Matt Dickart was well prepared for our visit and had his young, enthusiastic board ready to go. This club is growing so fast that they are worried about running out of space at the current meeting place. They are excited about The Rotary Foundation and contributed about $150 per capita last year. I heard about plans for a District Simplified Grant and several great local service and fund raising projects. The club has an annual Radio day, sponsors a pancake breakfast, supports the United Way Day of Caring, and has a strong relationship with a local Interact Club. They were so "hot" with enthusiasm today that the restaurant could not get the room to cool down! (Sorry, that doesn't meet the Four Way Test, but it makes a good point!) Many clubs have told me that a major threat is the economy, but I never even heard the economy mentioned today. I was pumped up after leaving this club!

The Notable Rotarian for the Spartan West Rotary Club had to be out of town today, but I recognized John Connors Jr. for exemplifying Service Above Self in his club. John is a retired insurance executive who has been a member of this club since 1994 and a Rotarian for 27 years. He is a Past President, Rotarian of the Year (2006), Paul Harris Fellow and Bequest Society member, and heavily involved in the club's literacy initiative at Arcadia elementary School.  He reads at least once a week to several classrooms and helps out the club in every possible way he can whether it be socially, financially, or administratively. John, I am proud to recognize you as a Notable Rotarian! 

Kathy and I have thoroughly enjoyed our 24 club visits over the past 5 weeks. We have logged 2,309 miles in Upstate South Carolina, spent 4 nights in hotels and 2 nights in Rotarian homes, and met many wonderful Rotarians in our district. I return to my real job tomorrow at the hospital, and we depart for Afghanistan on August 19th where we will promote a polio free world with celebrity Ramesh Ferris from Yukon, Canada. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Meeting with the East Spartanburg Club -- Organizers of the USC Upstate Rotary International Peace Park

Kathy and I enjoyed our second visit to the Piedmont Club in Spartanburg on Tuesday, August 9th in order to meet with the East Spartanburg Rotary Club board of directors. The meal and fellowship were superb. We spent a great deal of time talking about the club's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Membership growth is key to this club's success! President Elizabeth Belenchia stressed to the board the importance of team work and her desire to delegate responsibilities to each member of the club.
On Wednesday morning at 6:45 AM, we arrived at Mary Black Hospital for the club meeting. The room quickly filled with the club members, three new member prospects, and four student interns from USC Upstate who are organizing the club's World Peace Symposium to be held on September 21, 2011. The Rotary Club of East Spartanburg is off to a great start with increasing membership and diversity! My presentation went well, and several guests and Rotarians thanked me for sharing about the impact that Rotarians make around the globe. My goal is to excite Rotarians about our worldwide efforts and help them realize that we are not just donating money but changing lives! I am always thankful for positive comments after my presentation, but the real proof will be in the response to my very aggressive goals for the 2011-12 year! How close will we get to donating $150 per capita or more to The Rotary Foundation? Will we be able to grow our membership by a net 10% this year. If we meet these goals, District 7750 will make a huge impact on many lives around the world! 
The Notable Rotarian for the East Spartanburg club is Henry Giles Jr. . Henry is a remarkable Rotarian who has served as a Past President, committee chair, project leader, fund raiser, and a community face of Rotary. He has been recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow and has even contributed his Rotary Foundation recognition points so others could become Paul Harris Fellows. Henry is Executive Vice President of Spartanburg Community College where he has overseen expansions for 40 years.  The college strongly supports Rotary, and Henry represents them well! 

The signature project for the East Spartanburg Rotary Club is the USC Upstate Rotary International Peace Park located on the campus of USC Upstate. 
Rotary Peace Park_Road View
According to the peace park's website:
The USC Upstate Rotary International Peace Park is a beautiful six-acre park taking shape on the campus of the University of South Carolina Upstate. Once completed, this park will be a place to relax, contemplate, watch, wish and pray for peace and understanding.

The Upstate Rotary Peace Park is made possible by a unique partnership between USC Upstate and four Spartanburg area Rotary Clubs (North Spartanburg, Spartanburg West, Inman and East Spartanburg) and was officially dedicated on April 17, 2008. The park already boasts nearly 400 newly-planted trees, a seeded lawn with sprinklers, various gardens, park benches, walking paths an outdoor classroom ampitheatre, a conifer collection, shrub roses, ornamental grasses, two boardwalk/bridges and a fountain in the small lake.
 To the East Spartanburg Rotary Club, thank you for all that you have done in developing the USC Upstate Rotary International Peace Park and many other projects to benefit the Spartanburg community. I am hopeful that you will have a great year in attracting new members and in donating to our great Rotary Foundation! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy moments at the Rotary Club of Spartanburg

We visited our 22nd club in District 7750 today at the downtown Rotary Club of Spartanburg. This mighty club was charted on April 1, 1916 (95 years old) , is now comprised of over 180 members, and meets at the prestigious Piedmont Club. Three PDGs were present today -- Paul Wilson (1990-91), Bill Monroe (1994-95), and Jack Blasius (1995-96). The club was thrilled to welcome back PDG Paul Wilson who returned today for his first club visit since having a stroke several months ago.

I was honored to be able to recognize PDG Paul Wilson as the club's Notable Rotarian! I generally recognize the Notable Rotarian and present the certificate about half way through my presentation. Since Paul was in a wheelchair today, I enjoyed leaving the elevated platform to personally present the certificate to him. PDG Paul Wilson is truly a remarkable Rotarian!He has been a member since July 1, 1972, served as a District Governor in 1990-91, and recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. He received his higher education at Wofford College and worked for the Draper Corporation for many years as a division manager. The Draper Corporation thought so much of Paul that they established a scholarship fund just for him while he was in college. Paul is married to Dottie and has 3 children. Paul, we were thrilled to see you back at the club meeting today! Thank you for your great service to Rotary!

The Spartanburg Rotary Club board has big plans for the 2011-12 year. The even celebrated their big plans by firing a confetti gun during the meeting (see below)! They will continue to sponsor scholarships, participate in Salvation Army  bell ringing, support PolioPlus efforts, work on clean water projects internationally, and generously contribute to The Rotary Foundation. They plan to work hard on increasing membership and diversity. I was pleased to see several young professionals in the club and was very appreciative when President Tony Fisher introduced me as a "young man". Now that I am getting letters from the AARP asking me to join their organization and receiving senior discounts at some restaurants, I enjoy being referred to as a  "young man"!
I have been able to slowly reduce the number of slides in my presentation and was pleased to finish today with 3 minutes left. Several members came up to talk after the meeting adjourned to express their desire to meet my major goals for the year. I even had the opportunity to speak with the Mexican consulate who was visiting the club today. The greatest compliment to me was the request to send my PowerPoint presentation for later use in the club. 
Today was a very special day in Spartanburg for me. I am proud to be a part of an organization that truly makes a difference in the lives of people in the club's local community as well as people around the world.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Visiting with the North Spartanburg Rotary Club

We enjoyed meeting with the North Spartanburg Rotary Club today and had a lively discussion with the board. I consider a major portion of my job is to help educate and share ideas learned from other clubs. I was pleased that the board had so many questions as well as ideas to improve the club and especially to enhance membership. PDG Bill Monroe (1994-95) came to hear my presentation and enjoy a great meal and fellowship at the Clarion Hotel. Bill served as the District Governor the year that I joined Rotary, so he has heard a few DG presentations! Bill was very complimentary today, but I want to see if he comes back tomorrow for his club's official visit in downtown Spartanburg! 
The Notable Rotarian for the North Spartanburg Rotary Club was Markus Bolliger. Markus was a charter member and actively involved in the club since 1966. He is a Paul Harris Fellow and Sustaining Member. During his term as club president, he doubled the club's membership! Markus was named the Rotarian of the Year in 2002 and has served as the club's historian. He was the first club president to attend the RI International Convention and establish this as a tradition. I remember several years ago when Markus was instrumental in organizing the first Spartanburg High School band tour of Europe and an Interact Club. The club is blessed to have you, and I hope you can generate some ideas to allow the club to grow at least 10% net this year!
 President Wilton Jordon has a well organized team for the 2011-12 year, and I can see that he is planning to have a great year with strong membership growth and support of The Rotary Foundation. I challenged the club to bring in some New Generation members and consider new fund raising ideas. Thanks for providing us with such a great first day in Spartanburg! 

Rise and shine in the Electric City!

 After waking up early on Friday morning to travel to the Electric City Rotary Club in Anderson, South Carolina, I arrived well before the club members at the Golden Corral Restaurant. The club meets in a private room at the back of the restaurant. The restaurant server told me about how the last speaker with slides arranged the room, and I managed to get everything set up before the members and guests began arriving. I was pleased to have PDG Carol Burdette, Tom Faulkner, and AG Bill Harley come for the meeting. After a very long week with several hundred miles of travel throughout the district (Walhalla, Fair Play, Winnsboro, and Lancaster on the far extreme ends of District 7750), I was hopeful that my presentation would have an impact on the club and be pleasing to these distinguished district leaders. 

I try to read something about each city visited and learned these facts about Anderson. Anderson is the smallest of the three primary cities that makes up the Upstate region and is nicknamed "The Electric City" and "The Friendliest City in South Carolina." Anderson's spirit and quality of life has earned national recognition as Anderson County was named an "All-American City" in 2000. I have always wondered why Anderson was called the "Electric City" and found this explanation in Wikipedia: " Due to the innovation of Anderson engineer William Whitner, electricity could be conducted by wire to mills throughout the county. Anderson was the first city in the United States to have a continuous supply of electric power, which was supplied by a water mill located in the high shoals area of the Rocky River in Anderson County. The first cotton gin in the world to be operated by electricity was built in Anderson County in 1897. Several areas of Anderson are named in Whitner's honor, including a downtown street. Anderson became known as "The Electric City," a nickname that it still holds today."
The club members were very warn, welcoming, and genuinely enjoyed seeing each other. I saw lots of hugs, warm greetings, and energy in the room as club members began arriving. We had a great breakfast off the Golden Corral buffet, and President Michael Cunningham did a great job in moving through the agenda. I was pleased that they provided a children's book in my honor for the club's school reading project. The club has also been very supportive of the Anderson Free Medical Clinic. The three Anderson clubs (Anderson, Greater Anderson, and Electric City) are purchasing a stone with the Four Way Test inscribed for a new memorial for 9/11. Although the Electric City Rotary Club is relatively small, they accomplish a great deal in their community and world. They are a very hands-on club and also generously contribute to The Rotary Foundation. I have no doubt that they will see membership grow this year and their good work continue in the community. 

The Notable Rotarian for the Electric City RC is Faith Line. Faith has been a member since January 11, 2008. She has served as club president (2010-11) and is a Paul Harris Fellow and Benefactor. Faith served as the Director of Sumter County Library (SC) for 21 years prior to becoming the director of the Anderson County Library System in September of 2007. She is a Past President of the Southeastern Library Association, the South Carolina Library Association, and the South Carolina Association of Public Library Administrators. I could not help but notice how she humbly accepted the Notable Rotarian recognition. Faith, your club is very proud of you, and I am pleased to recognize you as a great Rotarian in our district! 

I returned to Greenwood after the club visit to attend several meetings, see my private patients all afternoon, assist in hosting a party at our home for the Greenwood Christian School faculty and family members that evening.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Good times in Lancaster with the lunch club!

My visit to the Rotary Club of Lancaster was a joy today! After a beautiful drive to Lancaster from Greenwood, I met with President Jodie Plyler and a large number of board members who were very excited about their club. Strengths of the Lancaster club include their fun meetings with lots of jokes, pokes at other members, and even friendly competition with the Lancaster Breakfast Rotary Club. We spent a great deal of time talking about membership, and I encouraged them to give generously to the Rotary Foundation. I was so sorry to hear that they had lost 5 members last year who passed away. They have a unique program called the Fishnet program in which members donate dollars in a large fish net for local charities. This net had large enough holes in the net that coins would not work! Maybe we should make the CART buckets with holes large enough that only bills or checks could be inserted and held! 
Our Notable Rotarian for the Lancaster club was Rev. Dr. Bert Welch. The club gave him a standing ovation when he was recognized. As the Immediate Past President, Bert brought a great deal of organization improvements in the club. He is a distinguished pastor in the Lancaster area that exemplifies Service Above Self in his Rotary, personal, and professional duties. For the first time in several years, the Lancaster Rotary Club earned a Bronze Award from the District Governor under Bert’s leadership. 

My presentation went well and we even finished a few minutes before the meetings was supposed to end. Several members came up after the meeting was adjourned to express their thanks. I can't tell you how uplifting these comments are to me. Today was my 20th club visit, so we are approaching the half-way point on official club visits!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lancaster, SC -- The "Red Rose City"

Kathy and I traveled about 45 minutes up the road to Lancaster, SC where we located Franklin Sparkman, President of the Rotary Club of Lancaster Breakfast in his office in downtown Lancaster. For some reason the Garmin GPS device does not take you to the correct address in Lancaster. Fortunately people know each other well and can direct you to the correct building.  History is alive and well in Lancaster, South Carolina, the Red Rose City.  Established in the mid 1700's by Scotch-Irish and English settlers from the region of the famous House of Lancaster, this area was viewed as a "Garden of Eden."  Over the years, the area has hosted two wars on its soil and has nutured several famous native sons, Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States, and William R. Davie, ambassador to France and founder of the University of North Carolina. Lancaster, South Carolina, the county seat of Lancaster County, is a charming historic southern City that, while proudly recognizing its history, is a service-oriented community focused on the future.
After spending the afternoon cleaning up e-mail and working on future club visits, I met with the Lancaster Breakfast Rotary Club board. The board is excited about enlisting new club members and plans many local projects this year. The loss of several key industries in the area during this economic downturn has been difficult for this area. President Franklin has some great ideas about helping club members to know each other better and encourage members to eat at different tables. The club favors spending most of their funds on local projects due to the current economic conditions. We departed the board meeting en route to Franklin and Aliene Sparkman's home located about 30 minutes outside Lancaster. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and their beautiful home for the evening before waking up at 5:30 AM to prepare to head back to Lancaster for a 7 AM meeting. 
The Lancaster Breakfast club is a lively group of about 80 members that have fun in the meeting. I was introduced to a table of Rotarians who have been around for many years and arrive about 6:15 AM each Wednesday morning. I had the honor of presenting Assistant Governor Sharon Novinger with her Paul Harris Fellow certificate and pin. My presentation seemed to go well and elicited several positive responses after the meeting and a few questions. I was pleased to hear that the club was making a contribution to The Rotary Foundation in my name.
The Lancaster Breakfast Notable Rotarian is Michael Clancy. Michael has been a member since October 1, 1998 and is the past club president (2006-2008), club Foundation chair, and now serves as the orientation officer. He supports The Rotary Foundation as a Paul Harris Fellow and Benefactor. Michael is married to Patricia and has two sons Drew and Blake. Other outside interest include singing in the 1st United Methodist church Chancel choir, Worship Committee chair, and Chair of the Church Council. He also Sings with Chamber choir, serves on the board for the Lancaster Community Playhouse, visits Morningside Convalescent home where he sings and entertains the residents, and has participated with the Junior Achievement program for many years.

We needed to return to Greenwood today for a few meetings at the hospital, but I will be back in Lancaster tomorrow for the lunch time meeting of the Lancaster Rotary Club at the same location.

On to Winnsboro, SC --" the Charleston of the Upcountry"

Kathy and I loaded our Suburban later referred to as "Big Bertha" and head two hours up the road to Winnsboro that is apparently often referred to as the “Charleston of the Upcountry” according to the city's web site.  Winnsboro, located in the upper Piedmont region of South Carolina, was named in honor of the Winn family, whose members fought in the Revolutionary War, and abounds with historic and architecturally interesting homes and buildings. Winnsboro’s entire central core is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sites to see in Winnsboro include the Greek Revival Fairfield County Courthouse, designed by South Carolina’s Robert Mills. The Town Clock, modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia, is believed to be the longest continuously running town clock in America to colonial buildings. The Fairfield County Museum houses collections spanning the area’s pre-history through to the early twentieth century.
 The board and club met at the Fairfield Motel located near the Fairfield Memorial Hospital. Larry Dozier, the CEO and President at Self Memorial Hospital in Greenwood, when I first arrived in 1994 later served as CEO of Fairfield Memorial Hospital and a member of the Fairfield Rotary Club. Club President, Arthur Lathan, was very welcoming and assembled a large board to discuss their plans for the year. The clubs plans modest membership growth and continued involvement in the local community. The club has done a great deal to support the local school system with scholarships and hands-on projects. I encouraged the club to increase their donations to The Rotary Foundation so we could make a bigger impact in the world. 
The Winnsboro Notable Rotarian was Tony Perez. Tony, a member since August 15, 2006, epitomizes the theme of Rotary of "Service above Self". He is the current treasurer and past president of the Winnsboro Rotary Club and can be counted on to be directly involved in Rotary club projects and take leadership roles. He takes a very active role in the community and has responded with tremendous kindness and cooperation over the years. Tony serves as a Board member and secretary of Palmetto Health Cancer Center, a board member of the Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce, and served four years as chairman of the Fairfield County United Way Campaign, each time exceeding the goal of the campaign.

 I had the opportunity to present the Past President plaque to Rotarians William Frick who did a great deal to better organize the club last year. Kathy and I were very impressed with the club's diversity, great meeting place and food, and a welcoming spirit throughout the meeting. I have great faith that the Winnsboro Rotary Club and President Arthur Lathan are going to have a great year as they seek to have "20/20 Vision". 

Spreading out to the edges of District 7750 - Fair Play, SC

My new blog posts slowed down considerably yesterday with our extensive travel from one end to the other of District 7750 (Fair Play, Winnsboro, and Lancaster) and no time to write. After leaving Walhalla, Kathy and I traveled to Lavonia, Georgia to spend the night prior to visiting the Fair Play Rotary Club. Fair Play is located very close to the Georgia-South Carolina border and has no hotels or traffic signals. In fact the town of Fair Play also has no people according to information from the SC Home Town Locator.  "Fair Play is a community or populated place located in Oconee County at latitude 34.511 and longitude -82.985. Fair Play had a population of 0; a land area of 6.74 sq. miles; a water area of 0.02 sq. miles; and a population density of 0.00 people per sq. mile according to the US Census Bureau estimate of July 1, 2009."
The good news is that Kathy and I found 8 very nice Rotarians in Fair Play! As you might imagine, the Fair Play Rotary Club has struggled with membership due to a very poor economy in the area and loss of some key key club members like Charter President, Larry Dunster. I recall meeting Larry Dunster during the Charter Night Celebration in January 2004. I went back a few years later to talk with the club about Rotary Foundation grants and spent the night at Larry's lake home. The club initially met in the back of a grocery store in Fair Play that has since closed. The club now meets in an old school building that is being renovated. I noticed that the Farmer's Market, youth programs, and the Fair Play Rotary Club use the same space at different days and times. 
I met with the club's board on Monday night at the lovely home of immediate Past President and Secretary, Bengt Berg. Bengt is the father of the 2011-12 club president, Anders Berg, who wants to see the club grow and continue to be active in the community. We had lots of discussion about potential new members and the future direction of the club. Kathy and I returned the following morning for the regular club meeting that included the board members plus Notable Rotarian Pam Harrell. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by the club's literacy chair, Peggy North. My presentation went well and generated a good bit of discussion by club members.
The club's Notable Rotarian is Pam Harrell. Pam was a charter member, served two terms as president, and continues to serve as the Chair of the Community Service Committee. Her deep knowledge of Rotary, both philosophy and practical procedures, is of great help to the president and the secretary. Pam is a Paul Harris Fellow,  Sustaining Member,  Benefactor, and  RLI Graduate (3 Sections).

The Fair Play club has their work cut out for them this year! However, I'm confident that the club's enthusiastic and action oriented members will do their best to enlist new members for the club even if they have to reach into Georgia and other nearby areas with people recorded by the latest census!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Travelling to the Gateway of the Blue Ridge

We began our week with a beautiful drive to the Rotary Club of Walhalla. Walhalla is the county seat of Oconee County and began as a settlement for German immigrants. Its name means "Garden of the Gods". Walhalla is also called the Gateway to the Blue Ridge. As we drove around the town prior to meeting with the club, I was impressed with a fountain and several signs proudly displaying the Four Way Test on College Street, the main street in Walhalla. I was later told that this was the club's centennial project. 
Club President Mike Thorsland has a bold plan for the year that has their board and members excited! Mike will use a new fundraising idea (Scripts) to help the club make a minimum $100 per capita donation to The Rotary Foundation. Mike represents the New Generation well, and I suspect that the club will see growth with many young professionals. I was also pleased to see some old friends, Lamar and Rosemarie Bailes. Lamar has served as the Walhalla mayor for many years, and has worked with Volunteers in Medical Missions (VIMM) with me in the past. We last traveled together with VIMM to Nicaragua a few years ago. 
Our Notable Rotarian for the Walhalla Rotary Club, Jordanie Mertil, is a great example for all of us. After a difficult childhood in Haiti, she came to Miami and to Oconee County in the early 1990's. She worked diligently to earn her GED degree, obtain US citizenship, and advanced from the housekeeping department to the Catering and Production Manager at Oconee Medical Center. She is an active member of Straight Paths Church and she has been instrumental in our club’s support of Love a Child Ministry, an orphanage in Haiti.  Jordanie Mertil is truly an excellent example of “service above self.” Her initiative, positive attitude, and strong work ethic are an inspiration to the club! 
DGE Kim Gramling and AG Patrick Lee came to the meeting today.  I had the opportunity to present Immediate Past President Stan King (photo above) with the club's Silver District Governor's Award from the 2010-11 year.  Although I was a bit verbose today, the club listened carefully and even asked for a copy of the presentation. We enjoyed meeting at the restored train depot located in a beautiful park where the annual Oktoberfest is conducted. As we left one member told me that the visit today was one of the most positive in their history. Thanks for your wonderful hospitality and willingness to share your beautiful community!